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The Radical Revolution

June 2024
1min read

I was pleased to see Gordon Wood’s comments on the radical nature of the American Revolution in the December 1992 issue (“The Radical Revolution”). I disagree, however, with his emphasis on the Revolutionary War itself as radical or radicalizing. The fundamental break with the old order for most colonists came not during the Revolution but at the moment they or their ancestors decided to pull up stakes and emigrate to the Colonies. That was the beginning of the revolution in their thinking, which opened them up to new ideas, new opportunities, a new determination to improve their lot. The War for Independence confirmed and institutionalized the attitudes that had already taken root, ensuring that later immigrants, who would also undergo their own revolutionary conversion in deciding to go to the United States, would continue to find an open, revolutionary society to fit into.

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